Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 18 Virulence

The present novel is merely Fan Fiction.

No commercial interest is pursued.

© Aliki, 2019

The story of this book is based on science fiction concepts created by Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jery Tailor, Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga, Nick Sagan, Ken Biller, Michael Okuda, Rick Sternberg, and many others.

Copyright for all humanoid characters and Star Trek technology is owned by Paramount Pictures / CBS.

Multiplication and distribution for commercial purpose are not allowed.


18. Virulence

A ball falls through a ring and through the net below, which is open at its bottom. Baxter jumps underneath in sportswear, catches the ball and throws it to Torres, who is in the middle of the field.
Meanwhile, Kim runs after Paris.
“Again, Ceph has thrown with one of the three arms that are not allowed!”
“He didn`t!”
“Yes, he did!”
“Are you saying he`s playing unfairly?”
“I`m not saying that … but sometimes he cheats!”
“Only when he plays in your team!”
“But no; it`s exactly the other way round!”
Suddenly, the light goes out. A dull impact can be heard, then a smacking and a rumble.
“Damn it!”
“What`s going on?”
“The matrix must have collapsed -”
“Ceph, go away!”
“Computer, emergency lighting.”
It`s getting bright again. The players are standing and lying on the floor of the bare holodeck. Ceph is sitting on the face down Baxter and sluggishly shoves himself to the side with winding arms.
Kim and Paris stand next to each other. They exchange dark glances and massage red bumps on forehead and temple.
Torres controls the readings at a display on a wall panel.
“A power failure.” She tears at a cover next to the console. “Joseph, help me!”
Carey grabs the sheet metal on the other side. They pull it out and put their heads into the opening.
“Damn!” curses Torres. “Those worms again! Two – three – five of them. Now they`re gone!”

Contentedly sniffing, Neelix stews vegetables in the wok pan. Janeway enters the casino and goes to him at the bar.
“Ah, Captain, … what`s your appetite for, today?”
Janeway smiles adventurously. “Just prepare something delicious, Neelix, … surprise me.”
Neelix broodingly frowns and presses his lips together.
“What could I …” Then he lifts his eyebrows inspired. “I think I know!”
He goes to the larder and opens the door. He jerks. Desperately, he raises his hands.
“My God — Captain: look at this!”
Janeway goes to him behind the counter. She follows his look into the larder. Packaging scraps and food leftovers are lying all over in the com-partments.
“This plate,” Neelix points to the back wall, “B`Elanna has installed it as an additional reinforcement!”
A hole about 20 centimeters in size has been broken out of the thick plate. Its border shows metallic meltings, as if a welding torch had cut through the steel.
“Only last night I`ve filled up everything!” complains Neelix.

DEUTERIUM is printed on a tank in large letters. Several more tanks are lined up behind it. At the front side of the tank an aggregate is mounted, marked with Plasma Generator. Two workers carry the end of a plasma hose to the tank and attach it to the flange of the plasma generator. One of the workers steps aside. On a display he touches the LOCK FLANGE command. With a clicking noise the flange is bolted.
Then he tells his colleague, “You may start the outflow now.”
The other crewman opens a valve. Immediately thereafter the connected hose indicates, by pulsating movements at its loops, that deuterium plasma is being pumped through. The crewman observes pressure readings on the plasma generator display.
Suddenly, all displays go out. With a loud click the lock on the flange of the plasma hose is released; its end jumps off. Hissingly, plasma sprays under high pressure from the free end of the hose, which is thrown back and forth by the recoil of the escaping medium. One of the two crewmen is hit by the plasma jet and falls to the ground.
The other one snatches at his communicator and calls: “A medical rescue team is required at the deuterium storage immediately! One person injured with plasma burns!”


In the almost fully occupied briefing room, Tuvok looks strictly and se-riously into the round. As his glance falls on Peri, he touches a display integrated into the tabletop in front of him. The room`s holocom pops up above the middle of the table. Next to a Voyager image Tuvok places several icons of Tubeworms.
Janeway enters the room. She takes a seat at the last free chair between Torres and Peri. Tuvok opens the meeting.
“This task force has the commission to solve a problem that acutely threatens the safety of the crew and the operational readiness of the ship`s systems. As you know, there have been intruders on board for some time, who initially behaved inconspicuously. But recently they started causing failures in almost all areas of the ship. These intruders are known as Tubeworms. It is the task of this team to locate the vermin as quick as possible and place them in safe custody!”
With a worried expression the doctor objects, “Commander, we still don`t know whether they actually pose a threat. Their behavior may be some kind of playful …”
“Doctor!” Janeway stops him. “You yourself treated a crewman today who sustained plasma burns. It is irrelevant whether these creatures committed a deliberate act of sabotage or just wanted to play. We must put a stop to their practices before more accidents occur! You have studied a specimen of this species. Do you see any way to lure them out of the tubes and tweendecks so that they can be captured?”
“I don`t know -” replies the doctor with a contrite face. “I`ve only stud-ied a very young individual who voluntarily lives with me.”
“Didn`t you manage to motivate it to play with a bait?”
“That`s right. But adults of this species may behave very differently. Give me a few more days for further investigations.”
Janeway`s fingers clench into a fist.
“We don`t have that time, Doctor! – Neelix, you once mentioned that Tubeworms are known and hated throughout the Delta Quadrant, but they were never known to have caused damages in an aggressive man-ner?”
“Well, Captain, my information is second-hand. I never had worms on my small vessel myself. They prefer big starships.”
“Do you know how they were fought?”
“Unfortunately no.”
“Seven, how did the Borg deal with these parasites?”
“The Borg were never infested with Tubeworms. Before the crew of a captured ship is assimilated, a thorough scan is carried out. If an infection is found in the crew or the ship the Borg cannot synthesize an antidote against, only healthy persons will be beamed out and the ship will not be touched any further.”
Dissatisfied, Janeway rubs her forehead.
Torres interjects, “Why don`t we just beam them to the brig, directly into detention cells?”
Janeway nods and looks at Tuvok.
“Can we detect them with the internal sensors?”
“As soon as sufficient signature data are available, this should be possible without any problems.”
Janeway places the icons of the transporter and the arrest cell into the interior of the holocom. Then she pushes the worms into the cell. She takes a severe look at the other end of the table.
“Doctor, immediately provide Commander Tuvok with all relevant data you`ve collected so far concerning the bio-signature of Tubeworms!”
Nodding frustratedly, the doctor stares at the icon of the arrest cell filled with worm symbols, which floats above the table. Suddenly the cell turns around and the Tubeworms fall out.
Janeway`s hand touches one of Peri`s seven fingers, the tips of which are at the touch screen in his place.
“Don`t worry. They shall be quartered in as beautiful biotopes as our other guests in cargo bay 2.”
Janeway reaches into her own touch display and smilingly pushes the image of a holo-biotope over the fallen-out Tubeworms. The biotope turns upside down as well and the occupants fall out again. Janeway`s gaze obscures.
“We`ll make sure that this won`t happen!”
She turns to Tuvok.
“Prepare everything, Commander! Tomorrow morning, we`ll play vermin controllers and get the matter finished!”
“Aye, Captain!”
The participants rise. While the rest leaves the room, Tuvok waits next to Janeway.
“There`s something else, Captain.”
“Yes -?”
“The three new crew members are not familiar with our phasers yet. I intend to train them on these weapons.”
“That`s a good idea! But add Seven, Kim, and Paris; you can combine the action with a group training then.”
“Understood, Captain.”
They leave the room. The only person left at the table is Peri, sitting on his spirally rolled lower segments, at a chair that is through-shaped at its seat. Peri turns his eyes away from the holocom and looks after those gone to solve their case.

In sickbay, the doctor is treating the face of the crewman who was injured by deuterium plasma. Torres comes in.
“You wanted to see me, Doctor?”
“I`m glad you could arrange to devote some time to me, B`Elanna!”
He puts the scanner aside and goes to his office. Torres follows him.
“What`s it about, Doctor?”
“It`s something personal, so to speak, concerning my physical flexibility as a doctor.”
“I don`t understand -”
“Look, … lately I`ve been examining and treating patients with uncom-monly complicated anatomy. Originally, my body structure was optimized for dealing with humanoid crew members. But if I want to examine the neural conduction of stimuli on a peripatoid or a cephalopoid, for in-stance, I have problems.”
His forehead covers with wrinkles of grieve.
“For example, when I stimulate a tentacle end and at the same time try to measure the reaction of the stimulus at the other end of the organism, … as banal as it may sound, Lieutenant, I occasionally would need slightly longer arms, a more flexible wrist, or fingers with a better grip. Look — I don`t want to have Ensign Paris come to assist me in an examination just because I`m not able to use two scanners on a patient simultaneously.”
“I`m not sure how I can help you in this case.”
“I just thought, … you are familiar with the programming of my matrix. If you could show me how to make just a few small changes to my anatomy in case of an emergency.”
“I don`t know, Doctor -”
“Is it so difficult?”
“Actually not.”
Torres bends over his desk and opens a program on his computer.
“Look, these are the algorithms for your anatomy. With this command you fade in the description for each code. These are the corresponding parameters. For example, if you increase this numerical value, your arm will get longer.”
She changes the value. The doctor`s arm lengthens a bit, which he follows with a delighted look.
“The reset command resets all parameters to their original values.”
The arm shortens to normal length.
Torres warns him, “Never make big changes at one step! Always change a value just a little and check the effect thoroughly first!”
The doctor nods radiating with joy. “I will proceed that way, Lieutenant!”
Torres scrolls down the program.
“From here on you must not change anything! This is where the pro-gramming of your neuronal matrix begins. If you modify something here, you might not be able to undo it!” Torres straightens up again. “Don`t play the magician`s rollicking apprentice, Doctor!”
“I do not intend to, B`Elanna.” He smiles at Torres in relieve and satisfac-tion. “I promise you, I`ll intervene in my program in critical emergencies only!”

In the bare holodeck there is a transparent intermediate ceiling at a height of two and a half meters, from which Ceph is hanging down. E-Bug, Peri, Seven, and Paris are standing sideways below him. Tuvok appears through the entrance.
“Ensign Kim will be coming soon. Meanwhile I`ll be explaining the goal of this training. – Computer, activate program Tuvok, weapons training phasers.”
Several target disks appear in a row on the opposite wall. In the middle of the room the oversized representation of a phaser starts rotating. Tuvok reaches into that hologram, making the phaser transparent and showing its inner life.
“This weapon is very easy to use.”
He touches a button on the handle. A phaser beam slowly grows out of the barrel of the weapon. Tuvok moves a slider back and forth. The intensity of the beam becomes stronger and weaker.
“The phaser is set to stun by default.” Tuvok engages the slider at a green mark.
Kim enters the holodeck. He wears a phaser on his uniform and holds three more in his hands.
“Mr. Peri`s and Mr. E-Bug`s weapons are now adapted to their hands, Commander. No modification was necessary for Mr. Ceph. His tentacle end is so flexible that he can hold and release our standard model.”
Kim distributes the phasers to the three trainees.
Tuvok commands: “Line up next to me!”
The other three humanoids stand next to Tuvok and look at Ceph, E-Bug, and Peri. The three join the line. Tuvok points his gun at one of the discs on the wall and shoots. Close to the center, a hit is visible. One after another, Kim, Seven, and Paris fire at their targets.
Ceph follows next. Only one eye is directed at his target. Several others look at the colleagues; the rest of the stems bow their eyeballs down towards the end of the loosely hanging arm holding the phaser. The arm lifts its phaser a little and shoots. Also, the downward-facing eyes interestedly whirl up, looking out for the disc. The shot has nearly failed the target hitting it at its outermost edge. Ceph immediately stretches the armed tentacle to its maximum length away from the body and straightens it towards the target. The next shot hits one of the inner rings. Ceph retracts all eyes completely into his body, except the two he uses to fix forward on both sides of his weapon arm. With a soft hiss the shot is released and exactly hits the black center of the disk.
E-Bug`s tube-eyes have observed Ceph. They aim in parallel at the tar-get. His front extremity lifts the phaser with a rapid movement and fires five shots. They all hit inside the third ring.
It is Peri`s turn now. He raises the front segments a little further. Then he adjusts the position of his facetted glasses with two hands. Finally, the third and the fourth hand together lift the phaser in front of the two complex eyes. Peri presses the trigger. A continuous beam burns through the target disc. Peri cuts out a circle along the line of the fourth ring; it falls to the ground.
“Amazing — how exactly the circle was cut from that distance,” comments Seven.
Tuvok`s gaze turns severe. “This is not about cutting out circles! The aim of the exercise was clearly demonstrated.”
“Maybe we should explain it by means of a defensive situation, Com-mander,” suggests Paris. “I`ve prepared a simulation.”
“All right, Ensign,” admits Tuvok.
Paris raises his head. “Computer, end program and start Paris 63.”
The oversized model of the phaser and the target disks disappear. They are replaced by a landscape battered down by grenades and covered with ruins of burnt buildings, from which smoke is rising.
“Let you and me demonstrate the game to them, Tuvok. It`s about making a quick distinction between our people and the enemies.”
Paris and Tuvok line up and draw their phasers.
Paris shouts: “Version 1 – Start!”
Driven by panic, humanoids in Starfleet uniforms run out behind a ruin heading towards the nearest building. A moment later their persecutors appear, shaped as roaring Hirogen, who level their Tetryon rifles at the fugitives. Tuvok and Paris shoot at the enemy persecutors at fast firing sequences and strike them down.
Paris turns to the side. “Harry and Ceph, you`re next!”
Kim knocks with the back of his hand on Ceph`s hanging arm, pulls his phaser and points into the war scenery in front of them. Ceph follows Kim`s gaze. He aligns his weapon and positions two eyes to either side of the stretched arm.
Paris shouts: “Version 2 – Start!”
A group of humanoids and cephalopoids flee from behind the wall. Some cephalopoids drag themselves meandering their arms over the ground, others swing forward on the black branches of a charred tree. Once again, murderous Hirogen appear behind the fugitives. Kim and Ceph fire as fast as they can. The Hirogen fall to the ground.
“Well done!” praises Paris. “Now Seven and Peri!”
Kim and Ceph move to the side. Seven takes Kim`s place. She gives her partner a sign to stand next to her. With slow steps Peri walks to the indi-cated position. There he lowers the erected front body to the floor. He puts his phaser down, turns around and walks swiftly with all legs moving in waves to the exit of the holodeck.
Tuvok`s stern gaze follows him. “The exercise isn`t over yet, Mr. Peri!”
Without turning around, Peri leaves the holodeck. The others are watch-ing the gate that is closing behind him with questioning faces. Tuvok turns to Paris.
“Is there another version, Ensign?”
He reflects. “The last one, Commander.”
Paris walks towards E-Bug, and gives him signal with his hand to position at Peri`s place next to Seven. E-Bug marches to the assigned spot, on rear legs and front claw extremities, one of which holds the weapon. Having arrived at his destination he lowers the massive middle jumping legs and lifts the front body. The claw hand that clasps the weapon rises. For a short moment one of the eye tubes is directed to the ground, where Peri`s phaser is still lying. Then it twitches to the left, where Seven stretches her weapon forward with both hands.
Paris shouts: “Version 4 – Start!”
Again, humanoids run through the battlefield towards the cover. There are also two alien creatures among the last of the group, that look like smaller versions of E-Bug. Immediately behind, the pack of Hirogen hunters rushes at them. Seven fires once, then quickly lowers her weapon.
With a jerky movement, E-Bug has pulled Peri`s weapon up from the floor with his second front extremity and catapulted himself with a single leap straight into the battle area. Still in the air both of his claws are firing with phasers and before he lands on the ground in front of fugitives and pursuers, both side feelers strike forward, cracking while discharging violent flashes so bright that Ceph and the others avert their eyes for a moment.
When they look up again, they just see the last Hirogens disappearing behind the cover where the humanoids had run.
E-Bug is standing between the smoking ruins. On both sides, his charged feelers are winding in the air and at his feet lie the two replicas of his kind — shot by phaser salvos and burnt by lightning strikes. The holomatrix of the two creatures flickers, as do the other elements of the holographic scenery. Then the projection collapses and disappears while sparks spray from a panel on the wall. Wordlessly, the humanoids stare forward. Ceph`s virtual ceiling dissolves; he falls down to the floor.

The starship Voyager is flying through space. As if caused by loose con-tacts, light flickers irregularly behind several windows. Also, at unlit glass elements there are sudden irregular movements. From time to time, small faces with button eyes and a circular mouth slide to the windows from the intermediate area between the two hulls of the ship. They motionless look into the darkness of space for a while, before disappearing again with jerky jumps.

Janeway and Tuvok are standing in front of the detention cells. Behind them a crewman is at the controls of the safety station.
“Are the cells secured, Crewman Yosa?” asks Tuvok.
“Force fields are active, Commander.”
“Go ahead, Tuvok,” demands Janeway.
He straightens. “Brig to transporter room. – Start locking on target bio-signatures!”
“The first six of them have been locked, Commander,” a voice replies.
Shortly afterwards, six Tubeworms materialize in one of the detention cells. They stand motionless and upright on their rear ends for a moment. Then they bend and jump by rapidly straightening their body. In this way, they leap around inside the cell in excitement. They repeatedly bump against the shimmering force field at the entrance. Finally, they all come to a stop close behind the field. They turn their heads to explore the inaccessible room in front of them.
“Transporter room, capture the next group!” orders Tuvok.
Janeway nods. “Continue this way, Commander!” She heads for the exit.
A voice reports, “Another six signatures have been locked on, Commander, … but the signals are getting unstable, … we`ve lost two of them, … even the others will -”
Janeway stops at the exit and raises her head. “Captain to transporter. – Beam them immediately, all you`ve got locked!”
“Aye, Captain!”
Four unstable materialization events appear in the detention cell. Finally, the transport succeeds with three worms, the fourth one is lost.
Tuvok inquires, “Transporter room, can you lock on any more targets?”
“We only see fading signals, Commander; they`re not strong enough for a transport!”
Janeway turns around. She exchanges a surprised look with Tuvok. Then the two of them become aware of what is happening in the detention cell. The Tubeworms have erected and stretch their heads upwards. Their bodies begin to vibrate, and they whistle a mixture of high tones from their round mouths. The shrill sound rises more and more. The three humanoids in the room press their hands against their ears. Their eyes and mouth muscles are distorted.
Suddenly, all the lights on the safety station go out, as well as the main lighting in the room. In the pale emergency light, the Tubeworms are jumping out of their cell, followed by alarmed gazes of Janeway and Tuvok. The next moment, the two are distracted by scratching and cracking noises coming from the ceiling and the walls. Facing elements are getting loose on several sides and fall to the floor. In a flash the escapees jump to the openings and disappear into the shafts behind them.
Janeway reaches for the last of the fugitives, who jumps to an opening more awkwardly than the others.
“Tuvok, help me keeping hold of him!”
Slippery as an eel, the worm winds in Janeway`s hands. They have wrapped around his neck, while Tuvok tries to grab the other end. Even-tually the Tubeworm gets slack and feeble.
Helplessly wriggling he shouts: “Stop it, … let me go! It`s me — don`t you see?”
Janeway makes a startled move.
“Who is — me?”
“Well me! Your Emergency Medical Holographic Program! — The doctor!”
Tuvok raises a brow. Janeway narrows her eyelids as she looks at a collar with a small, flat device hanging from the worm`s neck. She pulls the head of the worm creature closer to her eyes. The face of the tubeworm is furrowed with many deep wrinkles. Its mouth is not circular but resembles a narrow rectangle.
Doctor —? What are you carrying on in this shape?”
Below the button eyes the rectangular mouth begins to speak. “I`m studying one of the most amazing species in the universe in its natural habitat. I have spent only half a day among them and have already discovered behaviors that are quite incredible! You wouldn`t believe what a fascinating mating ritual this species is celebrating!”
“You didn`t take part in it, did you?”
“Of course not, Captain! I only observed it at close range.”
“We`ll talk about your unusual researching trip later,” declares Janeway in a strict tone. “I`m interested in only one thing now: how could the tubeworms escape from the arrest?”
“Through intelligent communication. They told the others in which room of the ship they were being held. Then their companions deactivated the energy supply of this room.”
Frowning Janeway looks at Tuvok. “So, it wasn`t coincidental playing, when they changed the signal connections in so many places!” Cold shiv-ers mix into her voice. “They`re able to control the whole ship this way.”
Her hands still cling to the neck of the captured worm.
“I want a report from you immediately, Doctor, including everything you`ve found out about that species!”
She stretches her arms away from her as far as she can and looks at him from one end to the other.
“And finally assume humanoid shape again!”

In main engineering, Torres is checking readings on a side console with a crewman. He points to a row of numbers on a display.
“Look, Lieutenant, there it is again! The values are still within the toler-ance range, but the fluctuations have never been that large.”
Torres nods. “Normally that`s a sign for the aging of a plasma coil.”
“I know, but these coils were replaced less than a year ago.”
“Keep an eye on it. We`ll check the coils at the next system shutdown.”
Torres goes to the central console in front of the plasma column and opens status data. She frowns.
Janeway appears in main engineering.
“B`Elanna, is everything okay with the propulsion systems?”
“Monitoring readings indicate nothing unusual, Captain,” reports Torres. “Only a few minor deviations from the standard values.”
“Set up a security team! Distribute the people to all critical positions where an attack by Tubeworms is possible. Take as many people as you need!”
“Didn`t Tuvok succeed in arresting them?”
“The ones we caught were freed by the others. Meanwhile they`re able to mask their bio-signatures.” Janeway looks at Torres seriously. “They`re about to take over the ship, B`Elanna, and propulsion will be one of their primary targets.”
With an incredulous face Torres declares, “We may secure most of the Jefferies tubes and tweendecks around main engineering; however, there are bottlenecks where even Peri cannot penetrate.”
“I know. But we`re going to make it as hard as we can for them!”
“All right, Captain.”
Janeway leaves main engineering.

Two armed crewmen make way for Kim and Seven, who enter a dimly lit technical room. It contains large, cuboid modules, which extend almost to the ceiling. On the side walls of these units there are displays where measurement data are constantly updated. Seven goes to a module labeled with Life Support Atmosphere. She controls the readings.
“Gas composition and pressure are in normal range.”
“Temperature values in the ship are OK as well,” reports Kim from another module. “Only at one spot there`s a deviation, … in a storage room near the shuttlebay; it`s warmer there than usual by about 10 degrees.” Kim touches the display in front of him. “That`s strange, the room`s controls cannot be activated. I`ll check that room later!”
Seven goes to the back of the module for the ship`s atmospheric gases. Several thick hoses are connected to the rear wall; they run down through a shaft into the ground. Seven opens her tricorder.
“There are three life-forms in the double-floor below us. A kind of interference radiation is superimposed on their signatures.”
“We got to remove some floor slabs to secure the hoses,” replies Kim worriedly. “Otherwise we can`t stop them from paralyzing life support!”
“We can`t do that anyway,” remarks Seven coolly. “These hoses are branching and spreading over the entire ship. They can be sabotaged at any position.”
“You know the captain`s orders: We are to push them back as far as possible from the main installations.” Kim turns around. “Foster, help me!”
Crewman Foster hands over his gun to his colleague. Then he kneels next to Kim on the floor. The two start loosening the screws of a plate.

Her forehead is supported in her flat hand, while Janeway is reading a text on her desk monitor with a deep furrow between her eyes. The doorbell rings.
“Come in!”
Torres enters the ready room.
“We`ve secured all access areas around main engineering, Captain. There`s also a guard at every antimatter storage facility.”
“All right, Lieutenant.” Janeway looks back at her monitor, which shows an anatomical graphic. “I`m just reading the doctor`s report. From the outside these worms look like ordinary carbon-based life-forms. But the conductivity of their cell membranes is unusually large, and a high concentration of metals and dielectrics is stored in many of their organs and connective tissue. This somehow enables them to perceive electric fields from their environment. And they are able to emit electromagnetic waves on several frequency bands in order to communicate with each other over long distances. The doctor thinks it might be possible that tubeworms belong to a genus that is remotely related to E-Bug`s species; the two life-forms have a similar metabolism.”
“Perhaps we can interrupt their communication with jamming transmit-ters,” ponders Torres.
Janeway looks up. “That`s a good idea! Have the doctor give you the relevant frequencies.”
“Aye, Captain. I`ll replicate a few transmitters and distribute them throughout the ship.”
“But don`t turn them on yet. We want to surprise them when we launch our next attack!”
Torres nods and leaves the room in a hurry.
Tuvok`s voice reports, “Security to Captain!”
“There`s been an incident on Deck 6 in an area above the computer core. Mr. E-Bug is missing.”
Concerned, Janeway stands up. “I`m coming!”

With his tricorder opened Kim stalks past a shuttle and runs to the inside wall of the shuttle bay. The light flickers above him as if a connection had a loose contact. While Kim walks along the wall, he scans the rooms be-hind it. He stops at the edge of a door. He pulls his phaser and opens it. Carefully he peers inside around the door frame. Then he enters.
In the middle of the room there is an air conditioner with an attached fan blowing. The unit`s monitor shows 31 degrees Celsius. Kim points the tricorder at the ceiling. Colorful bar levels appear on the display and small lights are flashing.

Janeway enters a hall that is two decks high. Dark towers that are lined up side by side, extend from floor to ceiling. Their surfaces are covered with arrays of isolinear chips, which protrude as small, flat plates. In each corner of the room a guard is standing, with a rifle in his hands.
“Ensign Nozawa, where`s Commander Tuvok?”
Nozawa points to the upper end of a ladder fixed to the wall.
“The Commander has climbed into the shaft up there, Captain. He`s looking for Mr. E-Bug.”
“What happened?”
“Several worms suddenly appeared and jumped on the main computer units. When we tried to surround them, they fled into the shaft. Mr. E-Bug jumped up and followed them.”
With quick steps, Janeway goes to the ladder and climbs up. On all fours she crawls through the opening of the shaft. She enters a tween-deck. She straightens up. Just above her head there are bundles of fiber optic cables and hoses. She stops. A dead Tubeworm is lying before her in the semi-darkness. She swerves sideways and continues. At the end of the room two passages are branching off. Next to the left one there is another corpse. Janeway bends down to step through the passage. Suddenly Tuvok stands in front of her.
“I`ve already examined this room, Captain.”
“Then let`s look over there!”
They force their way through the right opening into a darker area that gets its sparse light merely through the passage, from the weak emergency lighting of the tweendeck. Tuvok pans his tricorder.
“A very faint life sign, … this direction.”
With every step they take forward it is getting darker. Suddenly they stop. Horror glows in Janeway`s eyes.
Halfway up the room a body about two meters long is spun into a net-work of steel wires. Two long feelers protrude between the wires and lifelessly hang to the floor. The entire package of wires oscillates almost imperceptibly; but none of the parts of the body trapped inside shows any movement.
A shudder sounds in Janeway`s low voice as she looks at Tuvok`s tricorder display. “What is that?”
“Strange, … this wire bundle seems to be connected to a generator that delivers a counter-phase potential almost simultaneously to every voltage pulse emanated from Mr. E-Bug`s body. He is being systematically discharged, Captain.”
Janeway snatches at her communicator. “Computer – emergency site-to-site transport: beam Mr. E-Bug to sickbay!”
A dematerialization process occurs inside the wire mesh and along the feelers hanging outside. This causes the unloaded web fabric to lift slightly and contract a bit. Behind the emptying tissue, a third dead Tubeworm becomes visible on the floor.
With a dark face Janeway stares at the corpse.
“They lured him here, Tuvok; it was a trap!”
“Kim to Captain!”
“Go ahead, Ensign.”
In an undertone Kim reports, “I think I`ve found something like a nest or a gathering place of the worms! Above the ceiling of a store-room next to the shuttle bay I`m detecting more than forty life signs.”
“Caution Harry! They are by far more dangerous than we thought. With-draw immediately!”
“Aye, Captain.”

A crewman enters sickbay. The burns from the deuterium plasma accident are still visible on his face.
“I`m coming for the follow-up treatment, Doctor.”
Without looking up the doctor answers, “You have to wait a little longer, Mr. Gibson. I have a critical case here.”
The crewman sits down on a bed frame and looks at the operation table. E-Bug is lying there, stretched out lengthwise. His head is turned side-ways; his temple antennae lie flabby downward. Almost his entire body is covered by the semi-cylinder of a medical scanner that is folded over him. The doctor injects a hypospray into E-Bug`s neck. Then he attaches two electrodes to the side feelers, which protrude from under the scanner at its lower end. The doctor adjusts the regulator knob of a voltage source.
Tired and cold, the crewman`s eyes are directed at the feelers, which begin to twitch every second.
“He once saved my life when the Hirogens used me as a running target. I hope you`re going to pull him through, Doctor.”
“I do what I can,” the physician replies.
Janeway comes in with a worried look.
“Doctor -?”
“I can`t tell you anything yet, Captain.”
“Is he that bad?”
“His entire metabolism depends on capacitively charged tissue mem-branes interspersing his organs. This charge has almost completely been drained. All I can do is artificially maintain his weakened circulation and administer voltage pulses to his electro-receptors. If charge transfer pathways in his body haven`t too much degenerated yet, the impulses might still reach the organs and revive them.”
Full of compassion and concern Janeway looks at E-Bug`s tube-eyes, which tremble irregularly. Then she turns to the patient sitting on the neighboring bed.
“How are you, Gibson?”
“The burns are almost healed, Captain. The doctor says I`m going to be fit again by tomorrow.”
A motherly smile appears on Janeway`s face. “I`m glad you`ll be fine.”
“What do you think, Captain,” Gibson points to E-Bug, “if those crea-tures could even do for him — do we still have a chance?”
Without waiting for Janeway`s answer, the doctor intervenes: “You don`t even know what happened! Possibly the Tubeworms acted in self-defense in order to save their lives!”
Janeway`s gaze grows serious.
“I need to talk to you, Doctor.” She walks towards the doctor`s office and turns around again. “Are you coming?”
The doctor puts the scanner aside and follows her behind the glass wall.
“Two things, Doctor — first, it was not self-defense but a carefully planned attack!”
“But Captain, how can you -”
“And secondly,” a grim undertone mixes with her voice, “I have to ask you a question.” She eyes him sternly. “Does your loyalty belong to the safety of this ship and its crew implicitly? — You don`t have to answer now. Think carefully about your attitude.”
The initial surprise in the doctor`s face changes into wrinkles of contrite-ness. Janeway turns around to leave.
“Wait, Captain — please!”
Janeway stops and turns to him again.
“My implicit loyalty belongs to the safety of the ship and its crew.”
In a barely noticeable way Janeway`s head nods. Then she leaves sickbay.
In the corridor, she hears Tuvok`s voice.
“Security to Captain! – We`re ready.”
“I`m coming!”

Behind a shuttle and stacks of supply crates, Kim and two crewmen push a unit on a trolley up to a door. With hand signals, Tuvok positions two armed guards on both sides of the unit and distributes further guards over the area of the shuttle bay. Its lights are still flickering.
Janeway appears. She goes to Kim, who is busy at the display of the unit.
“Status, Mr. Kim!”
“The autonomous force field generator is ready for operation, Captain.”
Janeway taps at her communicator. “Janeway to Torres. – Are the jam-mers ready?”
“They`re already on the transporter pads, Captain. We`ll beam them into all sections on your mark. We`ve tested both modes: they should make the mutual communication signals of the worms incomprehensible, and they should also weaken the masking of their bio-signatures.”
“Excellent! Once the jammers are online, try to lock on as many worms as possible with the transporters! We are now building up the autono-mous force field around storage room 52.”
“Understood, Captain.”
Janeway takes a step closer to Kim. She looks at the display of his tricord-er, which he pans towards the door.
“It`s the same as before, Captain. There are no life signs measurable in the storage room behind the door, but numerous life-forms are displayed in the tween-deck above.”
Janeway ponders. “Isn`t it strange that they are masking their signatures all over the ship but here?”
“The room is very remote. They may not expect us to find them here.”
“Maybe. — Start the action!”
Kim opens the sliding door. Then he switches on the unit. A shimmering force field forms at the entrance. The field also covers all interior walls of the storage room behind it.
Janeway touches her communicator. “B`Elanna, we`re ready — spread the jammers throughout the ship!”
Shortly afterwards, Torres`s voice reports, “Jammers are distributed and active!”
“At first beam the individuals discovered by Ensign Kim to the storage room below!”
Janeway and Kim tensely look through the force field at the door into the storage room. Inside, four upright tubeworms materialize. Each of the four is surrounded by about ten metallically reflecting columns with concave dents.
“Captain, it seems they`ve faked their quantity,” warns Tuvok, who is standing behind Janeway.
Angry and alarmed, Janeway shouts: “Another feint! – B`Elanna, beam all worms you can detect into our force field!”
“Right away, Captain, … I`m detecting over fifty — damn it: transporters are failing!”
“Re-route emergency supplies!”
“It`s not an energy problem, Captain, they`ve disabled the controls!”
Suddenly, gas sprays into the shuttle bay, hissing and smoking from a shaft on the ceiling. Next to it, a tubeworm has pushed its head out of a grid. A guard fires at him. The worm`s head disappears in a flash.
“Up there is the fuel line to fill up the shuttle tanks!” shouts Kim.
Tuvok orders the guards, “Cease fire!”
Janeway snatches at her communicator. “Captain to the bridge! – Lock all fuel lines in the shuttle bay area immediately!”
Seven`s voice reports, “The locking systems cannot be activated at the OPS, Captain. We have no access. Many other systems in the area of the shuttle bay are no longer displayed on the panels of the bridge too!”
Tuvok warns, “If a spark ignites the gas mixture, the hangar is blown off and the two shuttles will be destroyed! I recommend opening the hangar sluice so that the gas can escape.”
Janeway nods. Tuvok runs to the sluice and pushes a button. The gate moves to the side. Through the shimmering force field that separates the interior from the vacuum of space, the warp stripes of the stars can be seen.
Janeway turns to the crewman standing next to the unit.
“Give me your rifle!”
He hands it to her.
Janeway calls: “Captain to all hands in shuttle bay. – Leave immediately!”
Kim is surprised. “Captain, what are you up to?”
“No time to explain, Mr. Kim. Get the people out of here!”
Kim and the guards leave the bay with a worried face. Tuvok returns from the gate.
“I`m afraid the force field will still be too strong in the event of an explo-sion.”
“I`ll switch it off with the phaser. Get out of here, Tuvok!”
“What you`re planning is too dangerous, Captain!”
“That was an order!”
Tuvok frowns. Then he goes to the exit. Behind the door he turns around and looks at Janeway until the sliding door has closed.
Janeway turns off the generator unit next to her. The force field inside the storage room collapses. Then she presses against the trolley and pushes the generator through the door into the room. The four tubeworms inside watch her every move. When they realize that the barrier has been disabled, they jump past Janeway into the shuttle bay and disappear into a shaft.
Janeway grabs the rifle. She reaches for the wall past the generator and pushes a button. As the door of the storage room closes, Janeway quickly stems her elbows on the generator leveling the rifle. Through the narrowing door gap, she aims at the console next to the hangar`s opening to space and fires. Sparks spray from the console. The force field between the shuttle bay and the vacuum of space collapses and the spraying console triggers an explosion of the gas mixture in the bay. Parts fly through the air. A provision box hits the door gap of the storage room and blocks the closing door. The blast wave also fizzles out into the storage room and hurls Janeway backwards. A moment later an enormous air suction sets in, capturing Janeway. Like a hurricane it sucks her back to the door gap of the room. With both arms she clings to the door held open by the jammed box and struggles not to be sucked through the gap into the hangar, from which more and more air escapes into space. Janeway reaches for the unit next to her and drags herself closer. Her finger reaches a button and touches it. Shimmering, the unit generates the force field again, which seals the inside of the storage room.
The storm around Janeway collapses; she sinks to the floor. A laceration bleeds on her forehead. She looks out over the jammed provision box, to the shuttle bay. Objects are still being blown into space through the open lock. A shuttle swings in its anchorage. The other one has been torn out from its docking clamps and is pushed closer to the exit. Finally, it remains lying on its side when the entire atmosphere has escaped into space.
Janeway looks at the stars outside the ship, which are no longer distorted into stripes, but punctiform. Outcast cargo is drifting behind Voyager.
Janeway touches the communicator. “Janeway to Torres! – Are the transporters online again?”
“We haven`t found the damage yet, Captain.”
“Assign a repair team in space suits to mind for the shuttle bay, … and a rescue team to storage room 52!”
“Aye, Captain. By the way, warp drive is failing now as well.”
Janeway`s eyelids are narrowing some more, and her lips tighten.

Voyager is floating in space. A tail of slowly moving cargo is drifting behind her, with single parts rotating in different directions.

In the conference room, Janeway massages a bump on her forehead while critically taking sight at the person on the opposite side of the table.
“Why are they doing this, Doctor? They have lived peacefully beside us for so long — now they seem to strive for our destruction. What use is it to a stowaway if he drives the ship that accommodates him into the state of average?”
“According to my observations, they have an extraordinarily broad spec-trum of activities. During the short time I spent with them, I saw a variety of behaviors that I could not interpret so far. My little Significus has never exhibited aggression. He was always curious; he wanted to play and learn. The adults obviously behave quite differently.”
“Could it be that they want to expel us from the ship in order to take it over?” speculates Carey.
Torres shakes her head. “To fly a ship like Voyager and maintain its sys-tems requires a bit more than rewiring a few signal lines! Though I admit they`ve brought the ship under their control with ingenious moves.”
“I`m not sure,” the doctor objects. “I don`t think genius is the right expression for their kind of intelligence. I think it`s more of a form of extraordinary professionalism. They possess a lot of experience their ancestors have gathered on thousands of ships with most different technologies. This experience has been imprinted in their innate instincts; and Significus`s eagerness to learn suggests that they also pass on a lot of knowledge as tradition to their descendants.”
Janeway has put her left hand over her erected right fist and supported her chin on it.
“Where is their weak point, Doctor?”
“They certainly had weak points shortly after they boarded Voyager; but in the meantime, they know the ship very well and I`m afraid … they also know us a little.”
Janeway`s dark and introverted gaze wanders from the doctor`s eyes over his mouth and upper body to the tabletop and along its edge. At an unoccupied place her view remains for a moment. Then it continues its movement up to the table surface before her elbows.
Seven proposes, “They are social beings. A suitable germ should rapidly spread among them.”
The doctor shakes his head. “I suppose many who wanted to get rid of them had this idea before, over thousands of years. In the body fluids of these beings there are a lot more different antibodies than in any other species I know. Even the Voyager database knows nothing comparable.”
“I assume transporters are still off-line?” inquires Janeway`s dark voice.
Torres nods.
“All right. If there`s no other way, we`re going to hunt down every single one of them and render them harmless!”
Tuvok straightens up. “I suggest that the doctor joins the Tubeworms once again in changed anatomy. So, he can track them down and com-municate their position with the help of a transmitter.”
With an unhappy expression the doctor protests. “Are you asking me to play the role of a spy?”
Janeway looks at him closely. “That`s your mission, Doctor. Can we rely on you?”
His head and his eyes sink. “Yes, Captain.”
Grimly Janeway rises.
“We`ve been fending off so many foes in all those years who threatened us. Even the Hirogen we could defeat; and when it was necessary, we faced the Borg and Species 8472. We will by no means knuckle down before these worms! – Dismiss!”
The participants leave the room. With a dark gaze Janeway stares at a chair with concave seat, which had remained unoccupied.

With a tail of freight following her Voyager is floating in space. Between her two hulls the heads of Tubeworms irregularly appear with rapid movements at many windows of the ship. Motionless they stare outside for a few moments and then disappear again as fast as they turned up.

Tuvok and two crewmen are standing in front of the opened entrance to a Jefferies tube. All three are armed with phasers. Janeway approaches and wordlessly gives Tuvok a questioning look.
He reports, “The operation is prepared to get started, Captain. Except for basic services on the bridge and in main engineering, the entire crew is ready for action!”
Tuvok raises his head. “Commander Tuvok to all operation services. En-ter Jefferies tubes and tweendecks now and comb through the areas assigned to you! Keep in touch with neighboring groups and exchange information about the movements of target objects! – Tuvok out.”
The two crewmen next to Tuvok crawl into their Jefferies tube. The one in front directs his phaser into the tube, the crewman who follows pulls a long box with holes on a rope behind him.

Seven and Baxter meet at the intersection of a horizontal and a vertical tube. Seven has opened her tricorder.
“The doctor is 16 meters ahead of us. He indicates three worms moving in our direction.”
The two humanoids lie flat on the bottom of the tube and aim forward with their phasers. With jumping movements, the three worms appear in front of them. Seven and Baxter fire. Two worms fall to the ground, paralyzed in their curved jumping movement; the third one escapes.
“Quick, Seven,” shouts Baxter. “Before they regain consciousness!”
The two crawl to the worms and put them in the boxes they pull behind them.
Seven checks the display of her tricorder again.
“Lieutenant Carey and Ensign Kim are approaching. They are driving two targets in our direction.”
Once again, the two lie waiting. They fire as the worms appear at a tube crossing in front of them. One worm is struck down, the other one is just grazed by the shot. It escapes groggy.

In a bent posture Paris and Lang are walking through the low passage of a tween-deck. Something moves in front of them. Paris fires. Hit at the jump, the worm lands at Paris`s feet. He puts it in his box.
Lang crosses her arms in front of her upper body and presses both hands against her flanks.
“Tom, why does it get so cold all of a sudden?”
White steam puffs out of her mouth as she speaks.
Paris opens the tricorder; he wonders.
“Temperature has dropped by 15 degrees. Oxygen content is decreasing rapidly.”
Janeway`s voice sounds from the communicator. “Captain to all operation services. – Withdraw immediately! Life support has failed. Gather in the casino and in sickbay!”
Paris and Lang exchange a worried look.

Kim and Carey quickly crawl to the exit of a tube. Kim opens the screw cap. They creep outside. When Carey turns the flap to close the tube, someone shouts from inside.
“Don`t shut it! Let me through — I`m being pursued!”
Carey opens the flap again and looks into the tube. A worm with wrinkles on its face jumps towards him. Three more worms are hard on its heels. Carey shoots twice just past the front worm. The three pursuers flee. In his wormy shape, the doctor jumps out of the Jefferies tube. He lands on Kim`s body, who in a reflex action holds up his hands to catch him. The worm immediately climbs on Kim`s back. He peers sideways past Kim`s neck to the tube Carey is closing. Kim`s eyes and mouth muscles distort, and he pulls up his shoulder as if something tickles his clavicle.
“What are you doing at my back, Doctor, … what happened?”
“They`ve unmasked me! They saw from my mobile emitter and the transmitter I used that I wasn`t one of them. At least a hundred were after me! If Significus hadn`t distracted most of them by taking my transmitter and running into a different tube, they would have lynched me!”
Kim distorts his arms towards his back to grab with his hands the doctor`s worm-body.
“Stop climbing around on my back, Doctor!”
Finally, Kim catches him and pulls him forward. He reaches for the holo-graphic emitter.
“What button do I have to press to get you back to normal shape?”
“The red one!”
Kim presses it. The next moment the worm body stretches and deforms into a humanoid figure. With his legs pulled up and one arm around Kim`s neck the doctor is sitting in Kim`s arms.
Kim impatiently demands, “You may stand on your two legs again, Doc!”
Still looking worried, the doctor examines his transformed body. Then he moves his legs downwards and releases the embrace.
“I`m sorry, Ensign -”

Sickbay is crowded. Janeway distributes atmosphere emitters and Paris hands over blankets to crews suffering from hypothermia. Torres ap-proaches with a stack of blankets.
“Captain, may I get five emitters? I have to take care of my people in main engineering and the guards at the antimatter tanks.”
“Of course.”
Janeway gives her the number she wants. Torres leaves through the exit while Kim and the doctor force themselves inside. Janeway reaches several emitters to Kim.
“Distribute them on the bridge, Harry. And take some blankets with you.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway stops the doctor.
“Do you know how long Tubeworms are able to last in the cold and in reduced atmosphere, Doctor?”
“They generally like it warm, but their organism can slow down its circulation. Then they are able to survive for days at sub-zero temperatures and with a few percent of oxygen. They would even survive vacuum conditions for a short time, Captain.”
“So, they got an advantage over us in this too,” growls Janeway angrily. “We have to recharge the atmosphere emitters every few hours.”
Concerned, the doctor adds, “And we don`t know how long the charging stations will be in operation.”
Seven`s voice comes out of the communicator. “Seven of Nine to Cap-tain!”
“Report something positive, Seven!”
“Unfortunately, I can`t. Almost all sensors, weapons and shields have just been failing.”
For a moment Janeway`s gaze takes on a manic expression.
Then she commands: “Transmit a distress call, … on all frequencies! Maybe we`re lucky to find someone to our assistance who knows how to deal with these worms.”
“Understood, Captain.”
Janeway turns to the doctor and hands him over her remaining atmos-phere emitters.
“Continue the distribution!” She notices the sickbed where E-Bug is lying motionlessly. “Is he disturbed by all these people?”
“Hardly,” the doctor replies. “I put him into a coma.”
Janeway`s gaze darkens even more. She leaves sickbay. With steaming breath, she walks through the corridor. The skin of her face assumes a bluish-red color. She turns into a side corridor. Her eyes are straightened without motion, as if staring into vacancy. Mechanically and stiffly, she walks along. Then she stops. Her head turns to the door of a quarters. As if frozen, her eyes follow this turn. She stands still for a moment. Then her arm rises, and her finger touches a button. Behind the door a ringing sound can be heard. She waits. The door slides open.
Kathryn Janeway steps inside the quarters. Slowly she walks along a wall, passing slabs of limestone and plates of slate, from which reliefs protrude. On its lower edge each exhibit has engraved: Reproduction from the United Planet`s Paleontological Findings Database. Finally, she stops in front of a low table. On the couch next to it Peri is resting. He has curled up his segments from below huddling together into an upright spiral sitting on the couch. From trachea pores of the outer segments of the spiral, fine strands of moisture from condensation are rising. Peri unrolls his spiral posture. His front segments straighten up. The two big eyes turn towards Janeway. He moves over to the side of the couch facing away from Janeway to make room for her. She sits down next to him. For some time, she is staring ahead at the opposite wall. Then her gaze sinks to the stone slab of the couch table, where polished fossils are embedded.
After a while she speaks in a toneless voice without raising her eyes.
“You knew it. You knew from the beginning we had no chance.”
Again, moments of silence follow.
Then she continues, as in a soliloquy, “Since I`ve been captain of this ship, this one`s been my biggest mistake: that I`ve ignored that species far too long, … that I did not mind finding out its real nature.”
Her gaze wanders from the table across the floor, to the reliefs on the wall.
Macroparasites who could survive on a Hirogen cruiser –”
She turns her head to the side and looks into the facets of Peri`s eye that stands next to her face as a tennis-ball sized hemisphere.
“What shall I do now?”
Slowly Peri`s erected segments bend forward to the table. His seven-fingered hand stretches out and touches the edge of a holopad. It is acti-vated, showing a display. Peri touches the virtual button Interlink Database and in the following menu Historical Encyclopedia in Pictures. He scrolls along a time scale and opens an entry. A video clip starts. It shows an ancient city getting surrounded by a people moving in with wagons full of families and a host of warriors. The clip stops. An image takes its place, showing three nobly dressed city dwellers. In bent posture they hand over a large key to the leader of the wandering people.
With dismay and horror Janeway stares into the image for a long time, as if at a ghost from dark dreams. Finally, her hand moves to the communicator.
“Captain to Tuvok. – Release all prisoners.”
“Captain -?”
“Do it!”
Steam clouds rhythmically come out of Janeway`s mouth. Strands of condensed fog are evenly rising from the tracheal openings of Peri`s segments. Janeway`s gaze is directed to the wall, at the relief of the fossilized fragments of a worm-like being segmented into rings, millions of years old.
After some time in silence Seven`s voice announces: “Seven of Nine to all hands. – Life support has been reactivated throughout the whole ship.”
Kathryn Janeway keeps on staring at the wall.

On the bridge, Ceph is resting in his hammock at the helm. As if playing in boredom, a tentacle end trips over the dark console. Several eyes observe this activity. Others are directed at the viewscreen, where stars are slowly drifting sideways. Four eyes are looking backward, to Lang at the OPS station and to Seven, who is working at the sensor controls.
Janeway comes out of the lift. Seven turns her head.
“I was about to call you, Captain. The auxiliary sensors have detected three ships quickly approaching us.”
“Do we know the signature?”
“What`s our status?”
“With the exception of life support all other systems that failed are still off-line. … The alien vessels are now going under warp.”
On the screen three martially looking starships appear, in flattened con-struction, with guns on both sides.
“We are hailed,” reports Lang.
“On screen!”
A militarily dressed humanoid appears, whose entire face is hairy.
“We are Klo`tong! I am Klo`tong Arr. We have received your call for help.”
“Thank you for coming! I`m Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. A worm-like parasite has spread on our ship, paralyzing almost all technology. By our call we were hoping to find someone who knows how to render this parasite harmless.”
Klo`tong Arr laughs scornfully. “A ship like yours kneels before a worm? So, you`re a weak opponent!”
He disappears from the screen. The three ships approach Voyager and fly at close distance over her bow towards stern. Seven switches the camera image. Voyager`s stern becomes visible and also the three for-eign ships docking at it.
“They`ve opened their locks, Captain. A number of people are entering Voyager!”
Janeway snatches at her communicator. “Intruder alert! – Captain to all hands. – Arm yourself and occupy strategic positions.” She hurries to the lift. “Janeway to Torres and Kim. – Meet me at the arsenal!”
“Aye, Captain!” answers Kim`s voice.
Several of Ceph`s eyes direct in a swirling twist to the turbolift as Janeway disappears into it.

Torres and Kim are rushing through a corridor. Suddenly Klo`tong appear in front of them shooting at them with rapid fire rifles.
From a side corridor Tuvok shouts, “Come here!”
Torres and Kim run to Tuvok. The three of them return the fire. Janeway joins them.
“Captain, do you think it`s possible that they make common cause?” guesses Kim grimly.
“What do you mean?”
“The worms and the attackers! Did the worms just prepare us — for their boarding?”
Another volley of shots crashes into the wall next to them. They take cover. Then Tuvok starts a counterattack. The four fire alternately around the corridor corner at the invaders. They retreat. Shooting at them, Janeway and the others follow. All of a sudden, the Klo`tong are no longer visible.
Janeway opens a door. All four hurry into the adjoining room. Janeway runs to the back end and opens a closet next to which Hirogen armor are suspended. Inside the closet there are only empty holders.
“Is it this what you are looking for?” asks a strange voice in a threateningly lurking tone.
The four of them turn around and look into the barrels of five tetryon rifles leveled on them. Close to the wall, on both sides of the entrance, the Klo`tong are standing. Their leader steps forward.
“We were convinced to make booty; but we had not expected to find such valuable weapons on your ship!”
Suddenly, he winces and turns his rifle against the ceiling. There sticks a lumpy body, with five radially spread arms rolled up at the ends. It clings close to the ceiling and is surrounded by a circular wreath of half-extended, rigid stem eyes. The object appears lifeless, like a zoological specimen.
“What is this?” shouts the Klo`tong with his weapon leveled.
Concerned, Janeway follows his gaze upwards.
“This is also one of our hunting trophies!” replies Torres quickly.
The fright in the hairy face of the Klo`tong changes into a grin as he turns back to the humanoids in front of him.
“Also -? Do you really think you can humbug us, making us believe that you are capable of capturing such weapons and armour?”
Suddenly, the trophy falls from the ceiling. Still in the air, the ends of the arms unroll. Five shots are hissing. Clapping hard, Ceph crashes on the floor with five phasers in his stretched-out tentacles. The five Klo`tong collapse. Dazed, Ceph`s eye stalks sway. The arms clumsily try to raise the body. Torres hurries to him.
She drags at one tentacle and calls out to the others, “Help me! He may be injured. He didn`t have an arm free to cushion the bounce!”
“Bridge to Captain!” reports Seven`s voice.
“What is it?”
“The Klo`tong retreat. Our sensors are online again. They detect massive system malfunctions on the Klo`tong ships.”
“Is our weapon phalanx operative?”
“Negative. But warp drive was set online just now.”
“Go to maximum warp and get us away!”
“Aye, Captain.”

At warp speed Voyager is flying through the stripes of stars. The lights on the illuminated windows have stopped flickering. Also, at the glazings without light it is quiet. No Tubeworms shows up anymore.

Janeway and Tuvok enter the bridge.
“What`s our status, Seven?”
“According to the readings, weapons and shields are online again. By the way, there`s an interesting recording from the rear cameras.”
Seven displays an earlier recording of a camera on the viewscreen. It shows the three enemy ships docked at Voyager`s stern.
“I`m magnifying.”
Seven zooms closer to a Klo`tong ship and its glazed docking port ex-tended for boarding Voyager. Jumping Tubeworms are visible, entering the alien ship in small groups.
“All three vessels were infested. According to my estimation, about two-thirds of the Tubeworms have migrated to the enemy ships.”
With a thoughtful expression Janeway goes forward step by step, until she reaches her place. As if hypnotized, her gaze clings to the recording on the viewscreen, where worms are infesting the foreign ships.
Janeway sits down. She places her arms on the side supports and leans back. She breathes heavily. In comprehension, her head lowers and rises several times. Then she turns sideways, to a place unoccupied for a long time. Next to it Peri has erected leaning against the armrest. The hemis-pheres of his facet-eyes are oriented towards the screen. He lowers them and turns a little in her direction.


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